Renovating and reusing—or “hacking”—clothing items rather than discarding them, is the guiding principle for a booklet created this summer by Associate Professor of Architecture and Urbanism in American Studies Kirin Makker and her research students, Grace Hammett ’20, E. Ainsley Rhodes ’19 and Ethan Leon ’19. The booklet, titled “Clothing Hacks,” is available for download at no cost on Instagram at @hackyourclothes or can be read online at issuu.com.
“This project aims for increased engagement around making as a way to build communities and self-empowerment,” says Makker. “It’s a Craftivist project.”
Craftivism, a term coined by writer Betsy Greer, refers to a form of activism that uses handcrafts such as knitting and other domestic arts to make a statement on current issues such as environmentalism and feminism.
The booklet features a series of instructions on how to alter clothing to better fit its wearer while at the same time questioning “…standards of sizing; definitions of comfort and fit; conceptions of beauty and body image; how capitalism fuels consumption in the unsustainable fast fashion industry; and more,” they write in the introduction.
“Hacking promotes agency, a deeper understanding of one’s body, environmentally conscious practices, economically friendly alternatives, creativity, personalized clothing, and heightened self-confidence,” says Hammett.
The illustrated hacks include simple repairs, like fixing a frayed button hole, as well as tailoring pants and shirts to better fit the wearer or become more stylish. There are also directions for dying a garment and adding embellishments, such as a contrasting cuff to pants. The booklet features before-and-after photos, some taken by HWS Chief Photographer Kevin Colton, of the students wearing the garments, which came from their own closets.
None of the students were experienced sewers at the start of the project, says Makker, who set up a small sewing studio on campus where they could gain experience. “They each had hand-sewing experience but little to no experience on a machine. I asked them to bring in items that they wanted to hack with an improvement, a mending, a fitting change or just to brainstorm transformation.”
For Rhodes, the work was empowering. “Today’s introduction to one simple hack made me feel so accomplished,” she says. “Later, at the thrift store, I felt liberated without being tied to just one section of sizes. I can feel myself beginning to look at clothing and my clothes in an entirely new and exciting way.”